LONG POND, Pa. -- The Winston Cup Series has come to the Pocono Mountains to mourn.
The faces in the garages are somber and pale. They buried Winston Cup star Davey Allison in Hueytown, Ala., on Thursday. The funeral procession was eight miles long, and mourners lined both sides of the road from church to cemetery.
"The only thing that rivaled the outpouring of sympathy was Bear Bryant's funeral," Allison's close friend Neil Bonnett said. "To see that much sympathy and caring, it made me glad that I live in Alabama."
Yesterday, at Pocono International Raceway, a space was left between the Wood Brothers' transport tractor-trailer and the one of Kyle Petty, where Allison's transporter would have been parked. Initially, the space was empty, marked only by the number 28 written in chalk on the asphalt. But as the day wore on, flowers and wreaths began to appear.
The first was a large planter filled with beautiful impatiens from Corrine Arnold of Baltimore, who has worked in public relations for the Ted Musgrave team this year. "It just looked so bare," she said. "It needed some warmth."
Slowly, more were added. The biggest, a beautiful golden wreath: "We'll miss you, Davey," signed, The Winston Cup Truck Drivers.
"It's hard to realize that it has happened," said car owner Leonard Wood, who has been in the sport since 1960. "Davey was such a good kid and so fun loving. He'd always sneak up behind me at the driver's meeting and tickle my ribs, because he knew I was ticklish and he'd get such a kick out of my squirming. He always parked his truck next to us. Now, every time I come back to the truck or look over at that space, it reminds me.
"As long as I've been in racing, I can't remember ever losing two of our championship caliber drivers in one season -- and in non-racing accidents," Wood said, referring also to the death of Alan Kulwicki earlier this year in a small-plane accident.
"Racing is a difficult kind of occupation, but this reminds us anything can happen any time. That's the way life is."
Yesterday, in the midst of the grieving, the Winston Cup teams qualified for tomorrow's Miller Genuine Draft 500. Ken Schrader won the No. 1 starting position, his fourth of the year, and set a track record in the process, clocking 162.934 mph.
"When you're in the car on the racetrack, you don't think about the pain everyone is feeling," said Schrader, who was with Allison four months ago when they heard the news of Kulwicki's death. "It's when you get out of the car and walk into the garage area and see that empty space . . . .
"You take away two drivers who are permanent fixtures, and it's a hell of [a] bad year -- whether they were lost on or off the track."
Yesterday, the men in the garages were trying to think about happier times. Dale Earnhardt recalled a fishing trip with Davey and Bonnett a few months ago. "We all caught big ones," he said.
Dale Jarrett, who grew up playing in racetrack infields with Allison while their fathers raced, thought being busy at the race track helped.
"It's hard to think about Davey not being here," Jarrett said. "We played as kids. The first race I won at Michigan, I beat Davey to the line. But what I remember most, what keeps flashing through my mind most is Davey smiling. . . . It makes you realize how precious your family is."
Family is what Winston Cup racing is all about, said Jeff Hammonds, the crew chief for Kenny Wallace. "I think the greatest comfort we have is being with each other," Hammond said. "We share so much together. I think we find comfort together. Davey showed us that last year, when he grieved here in the garages with us when Clifford [Allison's brother] died. He'd want us to be here."